The US Needs to Invest in Minds – Not Miners

❝ In J.D. Vance’s memoir “Hillbilly Elegy,” which recounts the blasted hopes of those left out of the modern economy, grandfather Papaw makes a prescient prediction: “Your generation will make its living with their minds, not their hands.” What Papaw didn’t foresee was that this shift would be far easier for women than for men.

❝ The US economy has long been moving away from “hands” industries such as mining and manufacturing toward “minds” sectors such as finance, health, and education. From 1970 to 2016, the share of workers in the former declined from 38 percent to 16 percent, while the share in the latter increased from 26 to 44 percent. Here’s how that looks:

❝ Less-educated men, who occupy more than three-quarters of “hands” jobs, have felt the sharp swing away from physical labor most acutely. By contrast, women comprised half of the “minds” jobs as far back as 1970, and their share grew in subsequent decades as they increasingly joined the workforce.

❝ The steadiness of the shift from hands to minds suggests that technology is the main driving force. “Minds” jobs became dominant in 1982, well before China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, and continued at an unaltered pace during the hyperglobalization of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Although increasing trade with China might have contributed to the decline in demand for production workers, it clearly wasn’t the primary force behind the trend.

That’s about half the article. You get the point. And if United States citizens don’t kick the officials they elect into some sort of activity more useful than posing for Faux News interviews, future-proof employment will continue to decline for a significant chunk of our population.

I realize the poseurs in Congress like things the way they are. Not having to worry about an informed electorate is “useful” to hacks unaccustomed to involvement in progress and progressive thought. Sooner or later, the pitchforks and torches brigade will get it right – one would hope – and support someone capable of doing the hard stuff instead of believing in pimps like Trump and his peers.

USA is now ranked a ‘Second Tier’ country at well-being

❝ Some 17 others, including all of Scandinavia, outperform the U.S. by a wide margin when it comes to well-being.

❝ America leads the world when it comes to access to higher education. But when it comes to health, environmental protection, and fighting discrimination, it trails many other developed countries, according to the Social Progress Imperative, a U.S.-based nonprofit.

❝ The results of the group’s annual survey, which ranks nations based on 50 metrics, call to mind other reviews of national well-being, such as the World Happiness Report released in March, which was led by Norway, Denmark, and Iceland, or September’s Lancet study on sustainable development. In that one, Iceland, Singapore, Sweden, and the U.S. took spots 1, 2, 3, and 28 — respectively…

❝ Of course it’s easy enough to dismiss or belittle these occasional reports, each with their unique methodologies and almost identical conclusions. Another approach, however, would be to look at them all together and conclude that they represent “mounting evidence.” In that case, Houston (and Dallas, New Orleans, Tulsa, St. Louis, Baltimore, Chicago, and New York), we have a problem.

❝ SPI produces the report in part to help city, state, and national policymakers diagnose and (ideally) address their most pressing challenges. The group’s chief executive, Michael Green, said America “is failing to address basic human needs, equip citizens to improve their quality of life, protect the environment, and provide opportunity for everyone to make personal choices and reach their full potential.”

How many politicians – either of the pallid flavors we’re allowed – offer you the opportunity to vote in support of a platform containing similar ideals?

Big Oil just realized Electric Car demand is rising

❝ The world’s biggest oil producers are starting to take electric vehicles seriously as a long-term threat.

OPEC quintupled its forecast for sales of plug-in EVs, and oil producers from Exxon Mobil Corp. to BP Plc also revised up their outlooks in the past year, according to a study by Bloomberg New Energy Finance released on Friday. The London-based researcher expects those cars to reduce oil demand 8 million barrels by 2040, more than the current combined production of Iran and Iraq.

❝ Growing popularity of EVs increases the risk that oil demand will stagnate in the decades ahead, raising questions about the more than $700 billion a year that’s flowing into fossil-fuel industries. While the oil producers’ outlook isn’t nearly as aggressive as BNEF’s, the numbers indicate an acceleration in the number of EVs likely to be in the global fleet…

❝ BNEF expects electric cars to outsell gasoline and diesel models by 2040, reflecting a rapid decline in the cost of lithium-ion battery units that store power for the vehicles. It expects 530 million plug-in cars on the road by 2040, a third of worldwide total number of cars.

❝ Long-term growth depends on a wide range of factors, including policy decisions by governments seeking to tackle air pollution to the cost of the lithium-ion batteries that account for about a third of the cost of each one.

Yet even as oil majors lift their outlook, they remain much less optimistic than the automakers. The world’s top automakers have a combined plan to sell 6 million EVs a year by 2025, rising to 8 million in 2030, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

2030 or 2040 might be doable for me. Looking forward to a greener more sensible world – and hopefully education and understanding keep up.

Why Single-Payer Health Care Saves Money

❝ Lingering uncertainty about the fate of the Affordable Care Act has spurred the California legislature to consider adoption of a statewide single-payer health care system.

Sometimes described as Medicare for all, single-payer is a system in which a public agency handles health care financing while the delivery of care remains largely in private hands.

Discussions of the California measure have stalled, however, in the wake of preliminary estimates pegging the cost of the program as greater than the entire state government budget. Similar cost concerns derailed single-payer proposals in Colorado and Vermont.

❝ Voters need to understand that this cost objection is specious. That’s because, as experience in many countries has demonstrated, the total cost of providing health coverage under the single-payer approach is actually substantially lower than under the current system in the United States. It is a bedrock economic principle that if we can find a way to do something more efficiently, it’s possible for everyone to come out ahead.

❝ By analogy, suppose that your state’s government took over road maintenance from the county governments within it, in the process reducing total maintenance costs by 30 percent. Your state taxes would obviously have to go up under this arrangement.

But if roads would be as well maintained as before, would that be a reason to oppose the move? Clearly not, since the resulting cost savings would reduce your county taxes by more than your state taxes went up. Likewise, it makes no sense to oppose single-payer on the grounds that it would require additional tax revenue. In each case, the resulting gains in efficiency would leave you with greater effective purchasing power than before.

❝ Total costs are lower under single-payer systems for several reasons. One is that administrative costs average only about 2 percent of total expenses under a single-payer program like Medicare, less than one-sixth the corresponding percentage for many private insurers. Single-payer systems also spend virtually nothing on competitive advertising, which can account for more than 15 percent of total expenses for private insurers.

The most important source of cost savings under single-payer is that large government entities are able to negotiate much more favorable terms with service providers. In 2012, for example, the average cost of coronary bypass surgery was more than $73,000 in the United States but less than $23,000 in France.

Although Republicans and Conservative Democrats have blocked civilians from the opportunity – so far – the essential benefit that produces lower cost insurance for our military and military veterans is just such negotiations.

Liars lie. That’s what they are paid to do. From Congressional politicians down to their state-level peers, media hacks, foundations chartered by conservative dollar$ – earn a significant chunk of their payola providing lies about the cost of universals insurance, class-conscious education, policing responsive to the needs of citizens instead of gun lobbies. No doubt, anyone thoughtful enough to look at lobbying practices in the United States can add to the list.

Tesla is building the world’s biggest battery


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❝ By the end of the year, the state of South Australia will be home to the world’s biggest battery, if Elon Musk and Tesla make good on an ambitious commitment. The battery installation will be hooked up to a 99-turbine wind farm (which is still being built) and serve as an energy reservoir to ensure that the region has enough power, even during times when power demand peaks.

❝ It’s fun to imagine an enormous Duracell battery sticking out of the ground, but in reality, the massive installation will be a network of batteries housed in Tesla-made units called Powerpacks. Together, they will make up what the company calls the “largest lithium-ion battery storage project in the world.” Tesla isn’t saying how many Powerpacks will be required for the project, but it will pack 100 megawatts of power capable of energizing over 30,000 homes…

❝ The South Australia battery is scheduled to be completed by December of this year, and in true Elon Musk fashion, he’s pledged that it will be free if they don’t install it within 100 days—a countdown that starts ticking as soon as a “grid interconnection agreement has been signed,”…

Mark Tholke, the chief development officer of Advanced Microgrid Solutions, says that giant batteries like this can play an important role in mitigating the fact that with renewable power generation, the wind doesn’t alway blow and the sun doesn’t always shine.

Musk’s legendary brashness ain’t scary. He’s already built a smaller version of this concept – on time, on budget.

China builds its first cute and cuddly solar power plant


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A Chinese solar power company has just completed the first phase of an ingenious PR stunt: building a 100MW solar power plant in the shape of a panda bear.

According to a release from the company, Panda Green Energy, and the Chinese state press Xinhua News Agency, the first half of the plant, with 50MW of installed capacity, was connected to the electricity grid in Datong, China, on June 29.

The image above of the project, which has gone viral, is not an actual photograph but an artist’s conceptual rendering pre-construction…

Panda Green Energy used a combination of darker monocrystalline silicon (the light-absorbing material in most solar cells) and lighter-colored thin film solar cells to design the solar farm in the likeness of China’s national animal…

While the actual plant isn’t quite as vivid as the sketch, it is nonetheless a significant addition to China’s solar fleet. According to the company, the new plant will avert the need to burn 1 million tons of coal over the next 25 years…

The Panda Power Plant initiative was also incorporated earlier this year into the “Belt and Road” initiative, China’s ambitious plan to invest in development projects in countries along the old Silk Road. The new plant in Datong is expected to be the first of 100 plants in the shape of pandas and other animals to be built in China and elsewhere as part of that effort. Another one, in Fiji, was announced in May.

The new Panda Power Plant is also just the latest showy example of China’s commitment to scaling up solar and other forms of renewable energy while cleaning up coal before eventually phasing it out. Unlike the US, China is on track to exceed its Paris carbon reduction commitments…

Gee, I wonder what Trump and the Republican Congress might come up with to express their failure to commit to cleaner energy?

What do you think 102 million dead trees mean for wildfire danger in California?


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The number of dead trees in California’s drought-stricken forests has risen dramatically to more than 102 million in what officials described as an unparalleled ecological disaster that heightens the danger of massive wildfires and damaging erosion.

Officials said they were alarmed by the increase in dead trees, which they estimated to have risen by 36 million since the government’s last survey in May. The U.S. Forest Service, which performs such surveys of forest land, said Friday that 62 million trees have died this year alone….

Scientists say five years of drought are to blame for much of the destruction. The lack of rain has put California’s trees under considerable stress, making them more susceptible to the organisms, such as beetles, that can kill them. Unusually high temperatures have added to the trees’ demand for water, exacerbating an already grim situation…

Although California enjoyed a wet start to the water year in Northern California, the central and southern parts of the state remain locked in what federal officials classify as “extreme” and “exceptional” drought.

Sooner or later – hopefully, the former – folks will realize that climate change means more than a couple paragraphs about global warming. Distorted climates produce untypical environments, often ending in disaster.

California has beaucoup solar power — so much that other states are sometimes paid to take it

❝ On 14 days during March, Arizona utilities got a gift from California: free solar power.

Well, actually better than free. California produced so much solar power on those days that it paid Arizona to take excess electricity its residents weren’t using to avoid overloading its own power lines…

The number of days that California dumped its unused solar electricity would have been even higher if the state hadn’t ordered some solar plants to reduce production — even as natural gas power plants, which contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, continued generating electricity…

❝ Why doesn’t California, a champion of renewable energy, use all the solar power it can generate?…

❝ The answer, in part, is that the state has achieved dramatic success in increasing renewable energy production in recent years. But it also reflects sharp conflicts among major energy players in the state over the best way to weave these new electricity sources into a system still dominated by fossil-fuel-generated power

That’s the polite way to put it.

❝ …The California Legislature has mandated that one-half of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2030; today it’s about one-fourth. That goal once was considered wildly optimistic. But solar panels have become much more efficient and less expensive. So solar power is now often the same price or cheaper than most other types of electricity, and production has soared so much that the target now looks laughably easy to achieve.

At the same time, however, state regulators — who act independently of the Legislature — until recently have continued to greenlight utility company proposals to build more natural gas power plants.

Generally, when folks are sleeping in a strange bed it involves sex or money or both. RTFA and decide how much of each is involved.